Mikhail Khodorkovsky: The Tables Have Turned In Moscow And Catalonia

October 10, 2017

Mikhail Khodorkovsky comments on the Catalonian referendum and the recent opposition protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. 

Vitaly Kavtaradze for Meduza

Something strange happened this week in Moscow and Catalonia.  In Catalonia the government acted unusually idiotically, whereas in Moscow the authorities acted unusually smart.

What’s the big deal about this referendum from Madrid’s point of view? According to the law of the land the referendum does not have any legal effect.  All the government had to do was to refuse to recognise the result, and in all practical matters respond in accordance with the law.  The European Union would definitely have supported them in that – nobody needs these upstarts.  Where will they go? Without their own financial system, without valid passports, without customs agreements? They’ll yell for a while and then calm down… or maybe yell for a little while longer.

But no, they had to go and make a scene with the police, creating the first (albeit still weak) conditions for launching an international procedure for recognition of the right to secede.

In Moscow, on the other hand, everyone was expecting a harsh crackdown and fresh police scandals capable of giving a new impulse to an electoral counter-campaign.  That did not happen.  The authorities calmly allowed 1-2 thousand protesters to walk around the centre of the city, say what they wanted to say, calming small groups of radicals without much of a scene.

Of course there were incidents, but they took place either before, or outside of Moscow.  We haven’t forgotten the REN-TV journalists who took part in the Open Russia raid with TV cameras and ‘interrogating’ Open Russia’s Timur Valeev while he was handcuffed face-down on the floor.  We will certainly be reminding all participants of the events with legal methods that they were acting illegally.

What took place in Moscow and a few other Russian cities is undoubtedly a step forward for the authorities in an intellectual and civilised sense.

These strange events have a logical explanation.  The Spanish Prime Minister is preoccupied not with Catalonia, but with internal conflict inside his own coalition government.  Vladimir Putin has not become more tolerant, but is trying out new tactics with the view of restoring relations in Europe after failures in the American and Chinese spheres.

It would seem that values are far from a priority for the Russian government.  In fact, these values are the values of our European civilisation, and they subtly encourage those who adhere to them, and cruelly punish apostates, even if they do not yet understand this.